The Hendersonville Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently voted 8-5 to extend Dave LeMarbre’s term as city administrator through March 31.
The resolution, sponsored by Ward 5 Alderman Jonathan Hayes, was sent to BOMA members around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. It was then passed in the General Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. before being added to the BOMA agenda at 7 p.m.
Typically, resolutions and ordinances that pass in committee are given two weeks before they are voted on by the full BOMA. Items for the agenda are also supposed to be submitted the Wednesday before the meeting. However, with a majority vote, any item can be added to the agenda.
Hayes told BOMA he wanted to discuss the issue at this meeting because there was only one more business meeting before LeMarbre’s term was set to expire at the end of the year. He later said he had not thought about bringing the issue up before and that he knew the December business meeting would be very busy with committee appointments and other agenda items.
“I didn’t even take the time to get other aldermen on board with me,” he said.
“I want to move vigilantly ahead with a very important issue of the city administrator, and I want to give the new board a time to warm up with committee appointments and other agenda items,” he explained.
Hayes also said he would be all for re-voting on the issue with the new board and that he would never want to deny the new BOMA members the opportunity to change anything.
“I want to build consensus on this board even if I have to give up something personally for the betterment of this board, for our city,” Hayes said. “It's all about the City. It's not about anything Jonathan wants.”
LeMarbre has been paid $75 an hour since he started his term as city administrator in December 2019 when he came out of retirement for the second time. He had come out of retirement previously to work as the interim parks director in 2018.
LeMarbre said he has worked 1,570 hours since last December and made $117,000. He said he receives no benefits, such as paid time off, insurance, mileage or vacation.
“I’m trying to keep my hours limited so A) I don’t waste the City’s money and B) I don’t waste my time,” he said.
In this year’s budget, there was $137,000 budgeted for the salary of the city administrator position and $35,300 for benefits, according to Robert Manning, Hendersonville’s financial manager.
Money for LeMarbre’s payment last year came from budget transfers from the public works and finance departments who had employee vacancies at the time, said Manning.
LeMarbre said that his biggest success as city administrator had been the teamwork among the City’s employees. He also mentioned the professional handling of employees.
“The city administrator has brought some structure and some fairness to the system that maybe wasn’t in it in the past,” he said
Tension between mayor, city administrator
LeMarbre said his biggest challenge has been the mayor because he has been against the city administrator. He said the mayor has not talked in-person with him in over three months and hasn’t visited his office in four months.
“This thing could have worked a lot better if we had cooperation,” said LeMarbre.
Mayor Jamie Clary said that while he may not have been in LeMarbre’s office for several months, he has been cutting down on office meetings due to Covid-19 precautions, choosing to meet instead in larger meeting rooms. He also said that he is not avoiding LeMarbre and that he has emailed him many times, calling it a “more effective” form of communication.
“Frankly his schedule is not stable,” said Clary. “And it’s sometimes hard to get a hold of him.”
Clary also claims that LeMarbre has been excluding him from staff meetings and limiting his access to information.
LeMarbre said that he had asked Clary to leave meetings of department heads due to the fact that business was being discussed that did not concern an elected official. LeMarbre said he had asked others to leave meetings that did not involve them.
“A lot of times we’re talking about things we’re going to present to the board and how we’re going to present it, and I don’t need one board member having information that the other 12 board members don’t have,” LeMarbre said.
During his mayoral campaign, Clary said the election was a referendum on the position of the city administrator and has said his victory is an indicator of the voters’ distaste for the position.
Clary said that he would bring the city administrator issue before the new BOMA soon, although he did not know if he had enough votes to change anything.
“I feel an obligation to the voters to bring that up,” he said.
When asked why he didn’t think a city administrator was a good fit for Hendersonville, Clary referenced a 1986 referendum that removed Hendersonville’s city manager position, a similar one to a city administrator.
“The people of Hendersonville want to elect a person who is responsible for the day-to-day operations,” he said.
LeMarbre said that at the next meeting he is going to make a report about the search for the city administrator that had been put on hold until after the election, but that it was a “moot point” if BOMA voted to remove the city administrator.
“The City will be in dire straits if they don’t have a city administrator,” said LeMarbre.